What Motherhood Taught Me About Money 

by Tia

There’s nothing like holding your heart in your hands. A little person you are suddenly completely responsible for. It reorients your reason for being. It changes every relationship you’re in – including your relationship with money. There’s often a massive aspect of selflessness and sacrifice involved. And a horizon shift as you think about what you want for your child one day; a flip to more future-focused thinking. Here, Lee Hancox, Head of Channel and Segment Marketing at Sanlam, shares some of the money lessons she’s learned from motherhood. 

“One moment you’re bulk buying nappies on sale and finishing yet another pack of plasters on non-existent ‘owies’, and the next instant you’re worrying whether you’re saving enough for their schooling. The mental ‘maths’ mothers do every minute is astounding. It’s no wonder moms tend to ‘level up’ quickly and frequently take the lead on budgeting, saving, and planning for the future. Mom money-hacks are legendary. But it’s more than that. Mothers are often the main custodians of their children’s childhood money memories. That’s a privilege that comes with a lot of responsibility. In South Africa, many mothers are also the single breadwinners and head of the household. It’s critical to know your rights and the support that you and your child are entitled to.” 

Here are some of the other lessons that motherhood has taught Hancox so far:  

  • Spoiler alert: Of course we want to give them the world. But there’s also a deep desire to instil a sense of gratitude. In a world where everything feels urgent and instant; where marketing is prominent and pervasive; I want my child to appreciate what she has. To fix the toy that breaks instead of buying a new one. To understand that every gift comes from hard work. Not to force a sense of indebtedness to me. But so that she can feel grateful for and take delight in the small things. And learn that important sense of anticipation in waiting for what she wants.  
  • You’re the grown up: I remember going to my lawyer to change my will and name a guardian for my child. The weight of being responsible for her hit me hard. I needed to protect us and our future. That meant medical aid and insurance. Life cover and an emergency fund. Conversations about how I’d want her future to look if I couldn’t be there with her. These weren’t easy to have. But it’s much harder not to have them. Peace of mind comes from having a plan.  
  • Mind the gap: It’s humbling how quickly children pick up and mimic our behaviours. It sparks a lot of introspection around one’s own childhood – which money behaviours I’ve held onto, and the ones I mindfully want to let go of. I’m conscious of the money memories she’s forming. How foundational they can be.  
  • Lean into support: The mom-network is incredible. I’ve found that if you can be vulnerable and open about the financial challenges of parenthood, other moms tend to do the same. It feels a lot less lonely when you know other parents are going through it too. If family offers childcare help, don’t be a hero. Say yes and take some time for yourself. I’ve also realised there’s a lot of power in seeking financial advice from an adviser who understands me and the goals I have for my family. It takes a team, and that’s OK.  
  • Kids get it: We chronically underestimate them, but they understand so much. I’ve tried to be candid about finances with her – we set goals together and I chat through the financial decisions I make. We started talking about opportunity costs when she was small – if you get this now, you won’t be able to save and buy something bigger later. I’ve been quite deliberate in choosing to be open and in thinking about which money lessons I really want her to learn.   
  • Generosity: We live in an incredibly unequal society and that’s such a hard thing to explain to a child. Modelling compassion feels like the best way to teach it.  
  • It’s not forever: Changes in circumstance happen. It can be extremely hard, but it’s not your forever. You will get yourself sorted. In these moments, it’s helped to set several attainable goals, and to work with an adviser to plan for the changes I’ve needed to implement. People are often understanding if you face situations head on. If you can’t make a payment, it’s worth making a call to work out a plan with the provider. Debt can spiral fast, which is again where a credit coach or adviser can add real value.  
  • Say no if you need to: You don’t need to go to every parent gathering, playdate or kiddie birthday party. If it’s not affordable for you right now, set some boundaries. Try to open up to people you trust, so you can find money-smart ways to get out and about.   
  • Fight for your rights: If you’re a single parent, you need to know your – and your child’s – rights. You have to make sure your child is looked after, which may mean turning to legal or financial counsel to ensure maintenance is being paid.  This may mean applying to the   Maintenance Court within the district where your child resides.  
    It is not necessary to employ an attorney to bring the application. Remember, both biological parents are legally obliged to support their child until he or she is self-supporting. The law says this responsibility must be shared equally. Recent changes to the law include a type of ‘formula’ based on the parents’ income to determine the amounts they should pay, and the child’s living arrangements are also considered.  

Hancox adds, “It all often feels like one big balancing act, between their needs now and dreams for their future. Remember, your needs matter as well. Fill your own cup. It’s so important to do something for yourself once in a while.” 

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